Edna Purviance's bio

Currently working on Edna Purviance's family biography. Draft is done. Photo: Leading Ladies © used by ednapurviance.org

Sunday, June 15, 2008

35mm prints destroyed during Universal fire

In case you missed it: The Universal Studio fire destroyed more than back lots, it also destroyed nearly all the 35mm film prints Universal Studio houses for showings at festivals and special film events around the world. This includes classic silent films like the 1927 Napolean which Cleveland Cinematheque director, John Ewing, learned will not be available for their Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque film event this year.

Ewing says he will have to replace three more films, including the 1967 A Countess of Hong Kong, which was Charlie Chaplin's last directed film (which Chaplin did not star in) and the Marlene Dietrich's 1934 The Scarlett Empress, directed by Josef von Sternberg. A Countess of Hong Kong was made in England and owned by Chaplin, but was released through Universal Studios in the USA.

The Cleveland news reports:
"Ewing plans to locate another print, substitute another historic film or skip a celebratory screening. "Napoleon" had not been announced on Cinematheque's schedule.

Ewing, who also is associate director of film for the Cleveland Museum of Art, must replace three additional films that were planned for the museum's Panorama Film Series.

They are the British film "Privilege" (1967), Charlie Chaplin's comedy "A Countess From Hong Kong" (1967) and "The Scarlett Empress" (1934), which stars Marlene Dietrich as Catherine the Great.

These screenings were planned for July, August and November. Ewing hopes to locate prints or show DVD versions. - The Plain Dealer - Cleveland

After the fire, many events started finding out their planned films were not available. The following is a portion from an email sent to to event organizers:

It is with great sadness that I must inform you that yesterdays fire destroyed nearly 100% of the archive prints kept here on the lot. Due to this we will be unable to honor any film bookings of prints that were set to ship from here. Over the next few weeks and months we will be able to try and piece together what material we do have and if any prints exist elsewhere. For the time being please check your rental confirmations and look under shipping instructions. If the print was set to ship from the studio then you date is now canceled. - from Mark Caro Blog: Chicago Tribune

The good news, the negatives were kept at a separate location. The bad news, cost is one of the main problems in getting new prints made. Going back to the negatives can be risky, depending on the condition of those negatives.

It is not like they don't have material to work with, but it will be a load of work getting this collection back to where it was. Time will tell how big of lost this will be in the long run, but it is surely a lost for film fans wanting to see their favorite films in 35mm on the big screen in the short run.

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